Skip to main content

Full text of "The mansion"

See other formats

O* Mansion 

■* j i'-' » 
> t 

IIQtnty **xi f&fr* 

X MjUuc. 

yjq:. jjia-=i i avAH won Tua " 


(See paee 42 J 



Henry van Dyke 










AND GOLD Facing p. 28 




The Mansion 

The Mansion 

'HERE was an air of calm and 
reserved opulence about the 
Weightman mansion that spoke 
not of money squandered, but 
of wealth prudently applied. 
Standing on a corner of the Avenue no 
longer fashionable for residence, it looked 
upon the swelling tide of business with an 
expression of complacency and half - dis- 

The house was not beautiful. There 
was nothing in its straight front of chocolate- 
colored stone, its heavy cornices, its broad, 
staring windows of plate glass, its carved and 
bronze-bedecked mahogany doors at the top of 


the wide stoop, to charm the eye or fascinate 
the imagination. But it was eminently re- 
spectable, and in its way imposing. It seemed 
to say that the glittering shops of the jewelers, 
the milliners, the confectioners, the florists, the 
picture-dealers, the furriers, the makers of rare 
and costly antiquities, retail traders in luxuries 
of life, were beneath the notice of a house that 
had its foundations in the high finance, and was 
built literally and figuratively in the shadow of 
St. Petronius' Church. 

At the same time there was something self- 
pleased and congratulatory in the way in which 
the mansion held its own amid the changing 
neighborhood. It almost seemed to be lifted 
up a little, among the tall buildings near at 
hand, as if it felt the rising value of the land on 
which it stood. 

John Weightman was like the house into 
which he had built himself thirty years ago and 
in which his ideals and ambitions were in- 
crusted. He was a self-made man. But in 
making himself he had chosen a highly es- 
teemed pattern and worked according to the 
approved rules. There was nothing irregular, 
questionable, flamboyant about him. He was 
solid, correct, and justly successful. 


His minor tastes, of course, had been care- 
fully kept up to date. At the proper time, 
pictures by the Barbizon masters, old English 
plate and portraits, bronzes by Barye and 
marbles by Rodin, Persian carpets and Chinese 
porcelains, had been introduced to the mansion. 
It contained a Louis Quinze reception-room, an 
Empire drawing-room, a Jacobean dining- 
room, and various apartments dimly reminis- 
cent of the styles of furniture affected by de- 
ceased monarchs. That the hallways were too 
short for the historic perspective did not make 
much difference. American decorative art is 
capable de tout, it absorbs all periods. Of each 
period Mr. Weigh tman wished to have something 
of the best. He understood its value, present as 
a certificate, and prospective as an investment. 

It was only in the architecture of his town 
house that he remained conservative, immov- 
able, one might almost say Early-Victorian- 
Christian. His country house at Dulwich-on-the- 
Sound was a palace of the Italian Renaissance. 
But in town he adhered to an architecture 
which had moral associations, the Nineteenth- 
Century- Brownstone epoch. It was a symbol 
of his social position, his religious doctrine, and 
even, in a way, of his business creed. 



"A man of fixed principles," he would say, 
"should express them in the looks of his house. 
New York changes its domestic architecture too 
rapidly. It is like divorce. It is not dignified. 
I don't like it. Extravagance and fickleness 
are advertised in most of these new houses. 
I wish to be known for different qualities. 
Dignity and prudence are the things that people 
trust. Every one knows that I can afford to 
live in the house that suits me. It is a guaran- 
tee to the public. It inspires confidence. It 
helps my influence. There is a text in the 
Bible about 'a house that hath foundations. ' 
That is the proper kind of a mansion for a solid 
man. " 

Harold Weightman had often listened to his 
father discoursing in this fashion on the funda- 
mental principles of life, and always with a 
divided mind. He admired immensely his 
father's talents and the single-minded energy 
with which he improved them. But in the 
paternal philosophy there was something that 
disquieted and oppressed the young man, and 
made him gasp inwardly for fresh air and free 

At times, during his college course and his 
years at the law school, he had yielded to this 



impulse and broken away — now toward extrav- 
agance and dissipation, and then, when the 
reaction came, toward a romantic devotion to 
work among the poor. He had felt his father's 
disapproval for both of these forms of impru- 
dence; but it was never expressed in a harsh 
or violent way, always with a certain tolerant 
patience, such as one might show for the mis- 
takes and vagaries of the very young. John 
Weightman was not hasty, impulsive, incon- 
siderate, even toward his own children. With 
them, as with the rest of the world, he felt that 
he had a reputation to maintain, a theory to 
vindicate. He could afford to give them time 
to see that he was absolutely right. 

One of his favorite Scripture quotations was, 
"Wait on the Lord." He had applied it to 
real estate and to people, with profitable results. 

But to human persons the sensation of being 
waited for is not always agreeable. Some- 
times, especially with the young, it produces a 
vague restlessness, a dumb resentment, which 
is increased by the fact that one can hardly 
explain or justify it. Of this John Weightman 
was not conscious. It lay beyond his horizon. 
He did not take it into account in the plan of 
life which he had made for himself and for his 



family as the sharers and inheritors of his suc- 

" Father plays us, " said Harold, in a moment 
of irritation, to his mother, "like pieces in a 
game of chess. " 

" My dear, " said that lady, whose faith in her 
husband was religious, " you ought not to speak 
so impatiently. At least he wins the game. He 
is one of the most respected men in New York. 
And he is very generous, too. " 

" I wish he would be more generous in letting 
us be ourselves," said the young man. "He 
always has something in view for us and ex- 
pects to move us up to it. " 

"But isn't it always for our benefit?" re- 
plied his mother. "Look what a position we 
have. No one can say there is any taint on our 
money. There are no rumors about your 
father. He has kept the laws of God and of 
man. He has never made any mistakes. " 

Harold got up from his chair and poked the 
fire. Then he came back to the ample, well- 
gowned, firm-looking lady, and sat beside her 
on the sofa. He took her hand gently and 
looked at the two rings — a thin band of yellow 
gold, and a small solitaire diamond — which 
kept their place on her third finger in modest 



dignity, as if not ashamed, but rather justified, 
by the splendor of the emerald which glittered 
beside them. 

"Mother," he said, "you have a wonderful 
hand. And father made no mistake when he 
won you. But are you sure he has always been 
so inerrant ?" 

"Harold," she exclaimed, a little stiffly, 
"what do you mean? His life is an open 

" Oh, " he answered, " I don't mean anything 
bad, mother dear. I know the governor's life 
is an open book — a ledger, if you like, kept 
in the best bookkeeping hand, and always 
ready for inspection — every page correct, and 
showing a handsome balance. But isn't it a 
mistake not to allow us to make our own mis- 
takes, to learn for ourselves, to live our own 
lives ? Must we be always working for 'the 
balance,' in one thing or another? I want 
to be myself — to get outside of this everlasting, 
profitable 'plan ' — to let myself go, and lose 
myself for a while at least — to do the things 
that I want to do, just because I want to do 
them. " 

"My boy, " said his mother, anxiously, "you 
are not going to do anything wrong or foolish ? 



You know the falsehood of that old proverb 
about wild oats. " 

He threw back his head and laughed. " Yes, 
mother, " he answered, " I know it well enough. 
But in California, you know, the wild oats are 
one of the most valuable crops. They grow all 
over the hillsides and keep the cattle and the 
horses alive. But that wasn't what I meant — 
to sow wild oats. Say to pick wild flowers, if 
you like, or even to chase wild geese — to do 
something that seems good to me just for its 
own sake, not for the sake of wages of one kind 
or another. I feel like a hired man, in the serv- 
ice of this magnificent mansion — say in training 
for father's place as majordomo. I'd like to 
get out some way, to feel free — perhaps to do 
something for others. " 

The young man's voice hesitated a little. 
"Yes, it sounds like cant, I know, but some- 
times I feel as if I'd like to do some good in the 
world, if father only wouldn't insist upon God's 
putting it into the ledger. " 

His mother moved uneasily, and a slight look 
of bewilderment came into her face. 

"Isn't that almost irreverent?" she asked. 
" Surely the righteous must have their reward. 
And your father is good. See how much he 



gives to all the established charities, how many 
things he has founded. He's always thinking 
of others, and planning for them. And surely, 
for us, he does everything. How well he has 
planned this trip to Europe for me and the girls 
— the court-presentation at Berlin, the season 
on the Riviera, the visits in England with the 
Plumptons and the Halverstones. He says 
Lord Halverstone has the finest old house in 
Sussex, pure Elizabethan, and all the old cus- 
toms are kept up, too — family prayers every 
morning for all the domestics. By-the-way, 
you know his son Bertie, I believe. " 

Harold smiled a little to himself as he an- 
swered: 'Yes, I fished at Catalina Island last 
June with the Honorable Ethelbert ; he's rather 
a decent chap, in spite of his ingrowing mind. 
But you ?— -mother, you are simply magnifi- 
cent! You are father's masterpiece." The 
young man leaned over to kiss her, and went up 
to the Riding Club for his afternoon canter in 
the Park. 

So it came to pass, early in December, that 
Mrs. Weightman and her two daughters sailed 
for Europe, on their serious pleasure trip, even 
as it had been written in the book of Provi- 
dence; and John Weightman, who had made the 

2 9 


entry, was left to pass the rest of the winter with 
his son and heir in the brownstone mansion. 

They were comfortable enough. The ma- 
chinery of the massive establishment ran as 
smoothly as a great electric dynamo. They 
were busy enough, too. John Weightman's 
plans and enterprises were complicated, though 
his principle of action was always simple — to 
get good value for every expenditure and effort. 
The banking-house of which he was the chief, 
the brain, the will, the absolutely controlling 
hand, was so admirably organized that the de- 
tails of its direction took but little time. But 
the scores of other interests that radiated from 
it and were dependent upon it — or perhaps it 
would be more accurate to say that contrib- 
uted to its solidity and success — the many 
investments, industrial, political, benevolent, 
reformatory, ecclesiastical, that had made the 
name of Weightman well known and potent in 
city, church, and state, demanded much atten- 
tion and careful steering, in order that each 
might produce the desired result. There were 
board meetings of corporations and hospitals, 
conferences in Wall Street and at Albany, con- 
sultations and committee meetings in the 
brownstone mansion. 



For a share in all this business and its ad- 
juncts John Weightman had his son in training 
in one of the famous law firms of the city ; for 
he held that banking itself is a simple affair, the 
only real difficulties of finance are on its legal 
side. Meantime he wished the young man to 
meet and know the men with whom he would 
have to deal when he became a partner in the 
house. So a couple of dinners were given in 
the mansion during December, after which the 
father called the son's attention to the fact that 
over a hundred million dollars had sat around 
the board. 

But on Christmas Eve father and son were 
dining together without guests, and their talk 
across the broad table, glittering with silver 
and cut glass, and softly lit by shaded candles, 
was intimate, though a little slow at times. 
The elder man was in rather a rare mood, more 
expansive and confidential than usual; and, 
when the coffee was brought in and they were 
left alone, he talked more freely of his personal 
plans and hopes than he had ever done before. 

" I feel very grateful to-night, " said he, at 
last ; "it must be something in the air of Christ- 
mas that gives me this feeling of thankfulness 
for the many divine mercies that have been 



bestowed upon me. All the principles by 
which I have tried to guide my life have been 
justified. I have never made the value of this 
salted almond by anything that the courts 
would not uphold, at least in the long run, and 
yet — or wouldn't it be truer to say and there- 
fore? — my affairs have been wonderfully pros- 
pered. There's a great deal in that text 'Hon- 
esty is the best' — but no, that's not from the 
Bible, after all, is it ? Wait a moment ; there is 
something of that kind, I know. " 

"May I light a cigar, father," said Harold, 
turning away to hide a smile, "while you are 
remembering the text ?" 

" Yes, certainly, " answered the elder man, 
rather shortly; "you know I don't dislike the 
smell. But it is a wasteful, useless habit, and 
therefore I have never practised it. Nothing 
useless is worth while, that's my motto — noth- 
ing that does not bring the reward. Oh, now I 
recall the text, ' Verily I say unto you they 
have their reward. ' I shall ask Doctor Snod- 
grass to preach a sermon on that verse some 
day. " 

" Using you as an illustration ?" 

" Well, not exactly that; but I could give him 
some good material from my own experience to 



prove the truth of Scripture. I can honestly 
say that there is not one of my charities that 
has not brought me in a good return, either in 
the increase of influence, the building-up of 
credit, or the association with substantial peo- 
ple. Of course you have to be careful how you 
give, in order to secure the best results — no 
indiscriminate giving — no pennies in beggars' 
hats ! It has been one of my principles always 
to use the same kind of judgment in charities 
that I use in my other affairs, and they have not 
disappointed me. " 

" Even the check that you put in the plate 
when you take the offertory up the aisle on 
Sunday morning?" 

"Certainly; though there the influence is 
less direct ; and I must confess that I have my 
doubts in regard to the collection for Foreign 
Missions. That always seems to me romantic 
and wasteful. You never hear from it in any 
definite way. They say the missionaries have 
done a good deal to open the way for trade; 
perhaps — but they have also gotten us into 
commercial and political difficulties. Yet I 
give to them — a little — it is a matter of con- 
science with me to identify myself with all the 
enterprises of the Church ; it is the mainstay of 



social order and a prosperous civilization. But 
the best forms of benevolence are the well- 
established, organized ones here at home, where 
people can see them and know what they are 
doing. " 

" You mean the ones that have a local habi- 
tation and a name. " 

"Yes; they offer by far the safest return, 
though of course there is something gained by 
contributing to general funds. A public man 
can't afford to be without public spirit. But 
on the whole I prefer a building, or an endow- 
ment. There is a mutual advantage to a good 
name and a good institution in their connection 
in the public mind. It helps them both.' Re- 
member that, my boy. Of course at the be- 
ginning you will have to practise it in a small 
way; later, you will have larger opportunities. 
But try to put your gifts where they can be 
identified and do good all around. You'll see 
the wisdom of it in the long run. ' ' 

"I can see it already, sir, and the way you 
describe it looks amazingly wise and prudent. 
In other words, we must cast our bread on the 
waters in large loaves, carried by sound ships 
marked with the owner's name, so that the 
return freight will be sure to come back to us. " 



The father laughed, but his eyes were frown- 
ing a little as if he suspected something irreve- 
rent under the respectful reply. 

"You put it humorously, but there's sense 
in what you say. Why not ? God rules the 
sea; but He expects us to follow the laws of 
navigation and commerce. Why not take good 
care of your bread, even when you give it 

"It's not for me to say why not — and yet I 
can think of cases — ' ' The young man hesitated 
for a moment. His half-finished cigar had gone 
out. He rose and tossed it into the fire, in 
front of which he remained standing — a slender, 
eager, restless young figure, with a touch of 
hunger in the fine face, strangely like and unlike 
the father, at whom he looked with half-wistful 

"The fact is, sir," he continued, "there is 
such a case in my mind now, and it is a good 
deal on my heart, too. So I thought of speak- 
ing to you about it to-night. You remember 
Tom Rollins, the Junior who was so good to me 
when I entered college?" 

The father nodded. He remembered very 
well indeed the annoying incidents of his son's 
first escapade, and how Rollins had stood by 



him and helped to avoid a public disgrace, and 
how a close friendship had grown between the 
two boys, so different in their fortunes. 

" Yes, " he said, " I remember him. He was 
a promising young man. Has he succeeded ?" 
" Not exactly — that is, not yet. His busi- 
ness has been going rather badly. He has a 
wife and little baby, you know. And now he 
has broken down, — something wrong with his 
lungs. The doctor says his only chance is a 
year or eighteen months in Colorado. I wish 
we could help him. " 

" How much would it cost ?" 
" Three or four thousand perhaps, as a loan. " 
"Does the doctor say he will get well ?" 
"A fighting chance — the doctor says. " 
The face of the older man changed subtly. 
Not a line was altered, but it seemed to have a 
different substance, as if it were carved out of 
some firm, imperishable stuff. 

'.'A fighting chance, " he said, "may do for a 
speculation, but it is not a good investment. 
You owe something to young Rollins. Your 
grateful feeling does you credit. But don't 
overwork it. Send him three or four hundred, 
if you like. You'll never hear from it again, 
except in the letter of thanks. But for Hea- 



" Religion is not a matter of sentiment 

ven's sake don't be sentimental. Religion is 
not a matter of sentiment; it's a matter of 
principle. " 

The face of the younger man changed now. 
But instead of becoming fixed and graven, it 
seemed to melt into life by the heat of an in- 
ward fire. His nostrils quivered with quick 
breath, his lips were curled. 

" Principle!" he said, " You mean principal 

— and interest too. Well, sir, you know best 

whether that is religion or not. But if it is, 

count me out, please. Tom saved me from 

3 17 


going to the devil, six years ago; and I'll be 
damned if I don't help him to the best of my 
ability now. " 

John Weightman looked at his son steadily. 
" Harold, " he said at last, " you know I dislike 
violent language, and it never has any influence 
with me. If I could honestly approve of this 
proposition of yours, I'd let you have the 
money; but I can't; it's extravagant and use- 
less. But you have your Christmas check for a 
thousand dollars coming to you to-morrow. 
You can use it as you please. I never interfere 
with your private affairs. " 

"Thank you," said Harold. "Thank you 
very much ! But there's another private affair. 
I want to get away from this life, this town, 
this house. It stifles me. You refused last 
summer when I asked you to let me go up to 
Grenf ell's Mission on the Labrador. I could go 
now, at least as far as the Newfoundland Sta- 
tion. Have you changed your mind?" 

" Not at all. I think it is an exceedingly 
foolish enterprise. It would interrupt the 
career that I have marked out for you. " 

"Well, then, here's a cheaper proposition. 
Algy Vanderhoof wants me to join him on 
his yacht with — well, with a little party — to 


cruise in the West Indies. Would you prefer 

" Certainly not! The Vanderhoof set is wild 
and godless — I do not wish to see you keeping 
company with fools who walk in the broad and 
easy way that leads to perdition. " 

"It is rather a hard choice, " said the young 
man, with a short laugh, turning toward the 
door. "According to you there's very little 
difference — a fool's paradise or a fool's hell! 
Well, it's one or the other for me, and I'll toss 
up for it to-night: heads, I lose; tails, the devil 
wins. Anyway, I'm sick of this, and I'm out of 

" Harold, " said the older man (and there was 
a slight tremor in his voice), "don't let us 
quarrel on Christmas Eve. All I want is to 
persuade you to think seriously of the duties 
and responsibilities to which God has called 
you — don't speak lightly of heaven and hell — 
remember, there is another life. " 

The young man came back and laid his hand 
upon his father's shoulder. 

" Father, " he said, " I want to remember it. 
I try to believe in it. But somehow or other, 
in this house, it all seems unreal to me. No 
doubt all you say is perfectly right and wise. 



I don't venture to argue against it, but I can't 
feel it — that's all. If I'm to have a soul, either 
to lose or to save, I must really live. Just now 
neither the present nor the future means any- 
thing to me. But surely we won't quarrel. 
I'm very grateful to you, and we'll part 
friends. Good-night, sir. " 

The father held out his hand in silence. The 
heavy portiere dropped noiselessly behind the 
son, and he went up the wide, curving stairway 
to his own room. 

Meantime John Weightman sat in his carved 
chair in the Jacobean dining-room. He felt 
strangely old and dull. The portraits of beau- 
tiful women by Lawrence and Reynolds and 
Raeburn, which had often seemed like real 
company to him, looked remote and uninterest- 
ing. He fancied something cold and almost 
unfriendly in their expression, as if they were 
staring through him or beyond him. They 
cared nothing for his principles, his hopes, his 
disappointments, his successes; they belonged 
to another world, in which he had no place. At 
this he felt a vague resentment, a sense of 
discomfort that he could not have defined 
or explained. He was used to being con- 
sidered, respected, appreciated at his full 



value in every region, even in that of his own 

Presently he rang for the butler, telling him 
to close the house and not to sit up, and 
walked with lagging steps into the long library, 
where the shaded lamps were burning. His eye 
fell upon the low shelves full of costly books, 
but he had no desire to open them. Even the 
carefully chosen pictures that hung above 
them seemed to have lost their attraction. He 
paused for a moment before an idyll of Corot — 
a dance of nymphs around some forgotten altar 
in a vaporous glade — and looked at it curiously. 
There was something rapturous and serene 
about the picture, a breath of spring-time in 
the misty trees, a harmony of joy in the dan- 
cing figures, that wakened in him a feeling of 
half-pleasure and half-envy. It represented 
something that he had never known in his 
calculated, orderly life. He was dimly mis- 
trustful of it. 

"It is certainly very beautiful, " he thought, 
" but it is distinctly pagan ; that altar is built to 
some heathen god. It does not fit into the 
scheme of a Christian life. I doubt whether it 
is consistent with the tone of my house. I will 
sell it this winter. It will bring three or four 



times what I paid for it. That was a good 
purchase, a very good bargain. " 

He dropped into the revolving chair before 
his big library table. It was covered with 
pamphlets, and reports of the various enter- 
prises in which he was interested. There was a 
pile of newspaper clippings in which his name 
was mentioned with praise for his sustaining 
power as a pillar of finance, for his judicious be- 
nevolence, for his support of wise and prudent 
reform movements, for his discretion in making 
permanent public gifts — "the Weightman 
Charities, " one very complaisant editor called 
them, as if they deserved classification as a dis- 
tinct species. 

He turned the papers over listlessly. There 
was a description and a picture of the " Weight- 
man Wing of the Hospital for Cripples, " of 
which he was president; and an article on the 
new professor in the "Weightman Chair of 
Political Jurisprudence " in Jackson University, 
of which he was a trustee; and an illustrated 
account of the opening of the "Weightman 
Grammar-School" at Dulwich-on-the-Sound, 
where he had his legal residence for purposes of 

This last was perhaps the most carefully 



planned of all the Weightman Charities. He 
desired to win the confidence and support 
of his rural neighbors. It had pleased him 
much when the local newspaper had spoken of 
him as an ideal citizen and the logical candidate 
for the Governorship of the State ; but upon the 
whole it seemed to him wiser to keep out of 
active politics. It would be easier and better 
to put Harold into the running, to have him 
sent to the Legislature from the Dulwich dis- 
trict, then to the national House, then to the 
Senate. Why not ? The Weightman interests 
were large enough to need a direct representa- 
tive and guardian at Washington. 

But to-night all these plans came back to him 
with dust upon them. They were dry and 
crumbling like forsaken habitations. The son 
upon whom his complacent ambition had rested 
had turned his back upon the mansion of his 
father's hopes. The break might not be final; 
and in any event there would be much to live 
for; the fortunes of the family would be secure. 
But the zest of it all would be gone if John 
Weightman had to give up the assurance of 
perpetuating his name and his principles in his 
son. It was a bitter disappointment, and he 
felt that he had not deserved it. 



He rose from the chair and paced the room 
with leaden feet. For the first time in his life 
his age was visibly upon him. His head was 
heavy and hot, and the thoughts that rolled in 
it were confused and depressing. Could it be 
that he had made a mistake in the principles 
of his existence? There was no argument in 
what Harold had said — it was almost childish — 
and yet it had shaken the elder man more 
deeply than he cared to show. It held a silent 
attack which touched him more than open 

Suppose the end of his life were nearer than 
he thought — the end must come some time — 
what if it were now ? Had he not founded his 
house upon a rock ? Had he not kept the com- 
mandments ? Was he not, " touching the law, 
blameless"? And beyond this, even if there 
were some faults in his character — and all men 
are sinners — yet he surely believed in the saving 
doctrines of religion — the forgiveness of sins, 
the resurrection of the body, the life everlast- 
ing. Yes, that was the true source of comfort, 
after all. He would read a bit in the Bible, as 
he did every night, and go to bed and to sleep. 

He went back to his chair at the library table. 
A strange weight of weariness rested upon him, 



but he opened the book at a familiar place, and 
his eyes fell upon the verse at the bottom of the 

"Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon 
earth. " 

That had been the text of the sermon a few 
weeks before. Sleepily, heavily, he tried to fix 
his mind upon it and recall it. What was it 
that Doctor Snodgrass had said? Ah, yes — 
that it was a mistake to pause here in reading 
the verse. We must read on without a pause — 
Lay not up treasures upon earth where moth and 
rust do corrupt and where thieves break through 
and steal — that was the true doctrine. We 
may have treasures upon earth but they must 
not be put into unsafe places, but into safe 
places. A most comforting doctrine! He had 
always followed it. Moths and rust and thieves 
had done no harm to his investments. 

John Weigh tman's drooping eyes turned to 
the next verse, at the top of the second column. 

" But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven. 1 ' 

Now what had the Doctor said about that? 
How was it to be understood — in what sense — 
— treasures — in heaven ? 

The book seemed to float away from him. 
The light vanished. He wondered dimly if 
4 25 


this could be Death, coming so suddenly, so 
quietly, so irresistibly. He struggled for a 
moment to hold himself up, and then sank 
slowly forward upon the table. His head rested 
upon his folded hands. He slipped into the 

How long afterward conscious life returned 
to him he did not know. The blank might 
have been an hour or a century. He knew 
only that something had happened in the inter- 
val. What it was he could not tell. He found 
great difficulty in catching the thread of his 
identity again. He felt that he was himself; 
but the trouble was to make his connections, to 
verify and place himself, to know who and 
where he was. 

At last it grew clear. John Weightman was 
sitting on a stone, not far from a road in a 
strange land. 

The road was not a formal highway, fenced 
and graded. It was more like a great travel- 
trace, worn by thousands of feet passing across 
the open country in the same direction. Down 
in the valley, into which he could look, the road 
seemed to form itself gradually out of many 
minor paths; little footways coming across the 



meadows, winding tracks following along beside 
the streams, faintly marked trails emerging 
from the woodlands. But on the hillside the 
threads were more firmly woven into one clear 
band of travel, though there were still a few 
dim paths joining it here and there, as if persons 
had been climbing up the hill by other ways and 
had turned at last to seek the road. 

From the edge of the hill, where John Weight- 
man sat, he could see the travelers, in little 
groups or larger companies, gathering from 
time to time by the different paths, and making 
the ascent. They were all clothed in white, 
and the form of their garments was strange to 
him; it was like some old picture. They 
passed him, group after group, talking quietly 
together or singing; not moving in haste, but 
with a certain air of eagerness and joy as if they 
were glad to be on their way to an appointed 
place. They did not stay to speak to him, but 
they looked at him often and spoke to one an- 
other as they looked ; and now and then one of 
them would smile and beckon him a friendly 
greeting, so that he felt they would like him to 
be with them. 

There was quite an interval between the 
groups; and he followed each of them with 



his eyes after it had passed, blanching the 
long ribbon of the road for a little transient 
space, rising and receding across the wide, 
billowy upland, among the rounded hillocks of 
aerial green and gold and lilac, until it came to 
the high horizon, and stood outlined for a 
moment, a tiny cloud of whiteness against 
the tender blue, before it vanished over the 

For a long time he sat there watching and 
wondering. It was a very different world from 
that in which his mansion on the Avenue was 
built; and it looked strange to him, but most 
real — as real as anything he had ever seen. 
Presently he felt a strong desire to know what 
country it was and where the people were going. 
He had a faint premonition of what it must be, 
but he wished to be sure. So he rose from the 
stone where he was sitting, and came down 
through the short grass and the lavender 
flowers, toward a passing group of people. One 
of them turned to meet him, and held out his 
hand. It was an old man, under whose white 
beard and brows John Weightman thought he 
saw a suggestion of the face of the village doctor 
who had cared for him years ago, when he was a 
boy in the country. 




"Welcome," said the old man. "Will you 
come with us?" 

" Where are you going ?" 

"To the heavenly city, to see our mansions 
there. " 

" And who are these with you ?" 

"Strangers to me, until a little while ago; I 
know them better now. But you I have known 
for a long time, John Weightman. Don't you 
remember your old doctor?" 

"Yes," he cried — "yes; your voice has not 
changed at all. I'm glad indeed to see you, 



Doctor McLean, especially now. All this seems 
very strange to me, almost oppressive. I won- 
der if — but may I go with you, do you sup- 

"Surely," answered the doctor, with his 
familiar smile; " it will do you good. And you 
also must have a mansion in the city waiting for 
you — a fine one, too — are you not looking for- 
ward to it?" 

"Yes," replied the other, hesitating a mo- 
ment; " yes — I believe it must be so, although I 
had not expected to see it so soon. But I will 
go with you, and we can talk by the way. " 

The two men quickly caught up with the 
other people, and all went forward together 
along the road. The doctor had little to tell of 
his experience, for it had been a plain, hard life, 
uneventfully spent for others, and the story of 
the village was very simple. John Weight- 
man's adventures and triumphs would have 
made a far richer, more imposing history, full 
of contacts with the great events and person- 
ages of the time. But somehow or other he did 
not care to speak much about it, walking on 
that wide heavenly moorland, under that tran- 
quil, sunless arch of blue, in that free air of per- 
fect peace, where the light was diffused without 


That free air of Perfect Peace 

a shadow, as if the spirit of life in all things 
were luminous. 

There was only one person besides the doctor 
in that little company whom John Weightman 
had known before — an old bookkeeper who had 
spent his life over a desk, carefully keeping 
accounts — a rusty, dull little man, patient and 
narrow, whose wife had been in the insane 
asylum for twenty years and whose only child 
was a crippled daughter, for whose comfort and 
happiness he had toiled and sacrificed himself 
without stint. It was a surprise to find him 
here, as care-free and joyful as the rest. 

The lives of others in the company were re- 
vealed in brief glimpses as they talked together 
— a mother, early widowed, who had kept her 

5 31 


little flock of children together and labored 
through hard and heavy years to bring them up 
in purity and knowledge — a Sister of Charity 
who had devoted herself to the nursing of poor 
folk who were being eaten to death by cancer — 
a schoolmaster whose heart and life had been 
poured into his quiet work of training boys for 
a clear and thoughtful manhood — a medical 
missionary who had given up a brilliant career 
in science to take the charge of a hospital in 
darkest Africa — a beautiful woman with silver 
hair who had resigned her dreams of love and 
marriage to care for an invalid father, and after 
his death had made her life a long, steady 
search for ways of doing kindnesses to others — 
a poet who had walked among the crowded 
tenements of the great city, bringing cheer and 
comfort not only by his songs, but by his wise 
and patient works of practical aid — a paralyzed 
woman who had lain for thirty years upon her 
bed, helpless but not hopeless, succeeding by 
a miracle of courage in her single aim, never to 
complain, but always to impart a bit of her joy 
and peace to every one who came near her. All 
these, and other persons like them, people of 
little consideration in the world, but now seem- 
ingly all full of great contentment and an in- 



ward gladness that made their steps light, were 
in the company that passed along the road, 
talking together of things past and things to 
come, and singing now and then with clear 
voices from which the veil of age and sorrow 
was lifted. 

John Weightman joined in some of the songs 
— which were familiar to him from their use in 
the church — at first with a touch of hesitation, 
and then more confidently. For as they went 
on his sense of strangeness and fear at his new 
experience diminished, and his thoughts began 
to take on their habitual assurance and com- 
placency. Were not these people going to the 
Celestial City? And was not he in his right 
place among them? He had always looked 
forward to this journey. If they were sure, 
each one, of finding a mansion there, could not 
he be far more sure? His life had been more 
fruitful than theirs. He had been a leader, a 
founder of new enterprises, a pillar of church 
and state, a prince of the house of Israel. Ten 
talents had been given him, and he had made 
them twenty. His reward would be propor- 
tionate. He was glad that his companions 
were going to find fit dwellings prepared for 
them ; but he thought also with a certain plea- 



sure of the surprise that some of them would 
feel when they saw his appointed mansion. 

So they came to the summit of the moorland 
and looked over into the world beyond. It was 
a vast, green plain, softly rounded like a shallow 
vase, and circled with hills of amethyst. A 
broad, shining river flowed through it, and 
many silver threads of water were woven across 
the green; and there were borders of tall trees 
on the banks of the river, and orchards full of 
roses abloom along the little streams, and in the 
midst of all stood the city, white and wonderful 
and radiant. 

When the travelers saw it they were filled 
with awe and joy. They passed over the little 
streams and among the orchards quickly and 
silently, as if they feared to speak lest the city 
should vanish. 

The wall of the city was very low, a child 
could see over it, for it was made only of pre- 
cious stones, which are never large. The gate 
was not like a gate at all, for it was not barred 
with iron or wood, but only a single pearl, 
softly gleaming, marked the place where the 
wall ended and the entrance lay open. 

A person stood there whose face was bright 
and grave, and whose robe was like the flower 


of the lily, not a woven fabric, but a living 
texture. "Come in," he said to the company 
of travelers; "you are at your journey's end, 
and your mansions are ready for you." 

John Weightman hesitated, for he was 
troubled by a doubt. Suppose that he was 
not really, like his companions, at his journey's 
end, but only transported for a little while out 
of the regular course of his life into this mys- 
terious experience. Suppose that, after all, 
he had not really passed through the door of 
death, like these others, but only through the 
door of dreams, and was walking in a vision, a 
living man among the blessed dead. Would it 
be right for him to go with them into the hea- 
venly city? Would it not be a deception, a 
desecration, a deep and unforgivable offense? 
The strange, confusing question had no reason 
in it, as he very well knew; for if he was dream- 
ing, then it was all a dream; but if his com- 
panions were real, then he also was with them 
in reality, and if they had died then he must 
have died too. Yet he could not rid his mind 
of the sense that there was a difference between 
them and him, and it made him afraid to go on. 
But, as he paused and turned, the Keeper of the 
Gate looked straight and deep into his eyes, and 



beckoned to him. Then he knew that it was 
not only right but necessary that he should enter. 

They passed from street to street among fair 
and spacious dwellings, set in amaranthine 
gardens, and adorned with an infinitely varied 
beauty of divine simplicity. The mansions 
differed in size, in shape, in charm: each one 
seemed to have its own personal look of loveli- 
ness; yet all were alike in fitness to their place, 
in harmony with one another, in the addition 
which each made to the singular and tranquil 
splendor of the city. 

As the little company came, one by one, to 
the mansions which were prepared for them, 
and their Guide beckoned to the happy in- 
habitant to enter in and take possession, there 
was a soft murmur of joy, half wonder and half 
recognition ; as if the new and immortal dwell- 
ing were crowned with the beauty of surprise, 
lovelier and nobler than all the dreams of it 
had been; and yet also as if it were touched 
with the beauty of the familiar, the remem- 
bered, the long-loved. One after another the 
travelers were led to their own mansions, and 
went in gladly; and from within, through the 
open doorways, came sweet voices of welcome, 
and low laughter, and song. 



At last there was no one left with the Guide 
but the two old friends, Doctor McLean and 
John Weightman. They were standing in 
front of one of the largest and fairest of the 
houses, whose garden glowed softly with ra- 
diant flowers. The Guide laid his hand upon 
the doctor's shoulder. 

" This is for you," he said. " Go in; there is 
no more pain here, no more death, nor sorrow, 
nor tears; for your old enemies are all con- 
quered. But all the good that you have done 
for others, all the help that you have given, all 
the comfort that you have brought, all the 
strength and love that you have bestowed upon 
the suffering, are here; for we have built them 
all into this mansion for you." 

The good man's face was lighted with a 
still joy. He clasped his old friend's hand 
closely, and whispered: "How wonderful it is! 
Go on, you will come to your mansion next, it 
is not far away, and we shall see each other 
again soon, very soon." 

So he went through the garden, and into the 
music within. The Keeper of the Gate turned 
to John Weightman with level, quiet, searching 
eyes. Then he asked, gravely: 

" Where do you wish me to lead you now ?" 


"To see my own mansion," answered the 
man, with half-concealed excitement. " Is 
there not one here for me? You may not let 
me enter it yet, perhaps, for I must confess to 
you that I am only — ' ' 

"I know," said the Keeper of the Gate — " I 
know it all. You are John Weigh tman." 

"Yes," said the man, more firmly than he 
had spoken at first, for it gratified him that his 
name was known. " Yes, I am John Weight- 
man, Senior Warden of St. Petronius' Church. 
I wish very much to see my mansion here, if 
only for a moment. I believe that you have 
one for me. Will you take me to it ?" 

The Keeper of the Gate drew a little book 
from the breast of his robe and turned over the 

"Certainly," he said, with a curious look at 
the man, " your name is here; and you shall see 
your mansion, if you will follow me." 

It seemed as if they must have walked miles 
and miles, through the vast city, passing street 
after street of houses larger and smaller, of 
gardens richer and poorer, but all full of beauty 
and delight. They came into a kind of suburb, 
where there were many small cottages, with 
plots of flowers, very lowly but bright and 



fragrant. Finally they reached an open field, 
bare and lonely-looking. There were two or 
three little bushes in it, without flowers, and 
the grass was sparse and thin. In the center 
of the field was a tiny hut, hardly big enough 
for a shepherd's shelter. It looked as if it had 
been built of discarded things, scraps and frag- 
ments of other buildings, put together with 
care and pains, by some one who had tried to 
make the most of cast-off material. There was 
something pitiful and shamefaced about the 
hut. It shrank and drooped and faded in its 
barren field, and seemed to cling only by suffer- 
ance to the edge of the splendid city. 

"This," said the Keeper of the Gate, stand- 
ing still, and speaking with a low, distinct voice 
— "this is your mansion, John Weightman." 

An almost intolerable shock of grieved won- 
der and indignation choked the man for a 
moment so that he could not say a word. Then 
he turned his face away from the poor little hut 
and began to remonstrate eagerly with his com- 

"Surely, sir," he stammered, "you must be 
in error about this. There is something wrong 
— some other John Weightman — a confusion of 
names — the book must be mistaken." 
6 39 


" There is no mistake," said the Keeper of the 
Gate, very calmly; "here is your name, the 
record of your title and your possessions in this 
place. ' ' 

"But how could such a house be prepared 
for me, " cried the man, with a resentful tremor 
in his voice, " for me, after my long and faithful 
service ? Is this a suitable mansion for one so 
well known and devoted? Why is it so piti- 
fully small and mean? Why have you not 
built it large and fair, like the others ?" 

" That is all the material you sent us." 


" We have used all the material that you sent 
us," repeated the Keeper of the Gate. 

" Now I know that you are mistaken," cried 
the man, with growing earnestness, " for all my 
life long I have been doing things that must 
have supplied you with material. Have you 
not heard that I have built a school-house ; the 
wing of a hospital; two — yes, three — small 
churches, and the greater part of a large one, 
the spire of St. Petro — " 

The Keeper of the Gate lifted his hand. 

" Wait," he said; "we know all these things. 
They were not ill done. But they were all 
marked and used as foundation for the name 



and mansion of John Weightman in the world. 
Did you not plan them for that?" 

"Yes," answered the man, confused and 
taken aback, " I confess that I thought often of 
them in that way. Perhaps my heart was set 
upon that too much. But there are other things 
— my endowment for the college — my steady 
and liberal contributions to all the established 
charities — my support of every respectable — " 

"Wait," said the Keeper of the Gate again. 
" Were not all these carefully recorded on earth 
where they would add to your credit? They 
were not foolishly done. Verily, you have had 
your reward for them. Would you be paid 

"No," cried the man, with deepening dis- 
may, " I dare not claim that. I acknowledge 
that I considered my own interest too much. 
But surely not altogether. You have said that 
these things were not foolishly done. They 
accomplished some good in the world. Does 
not that count for something?" 

" Yes," answered the Keeper of the Gate, " it 
counts in the world — where you counted it. 
But it does not belong to you here. We have 
saved and used everything that you sent us. 
This is the mansion prepared for you." 



As he spoke, his look grew deeper and more 
searching, like a flame of fire. John Weight- 
man could not endure it. It seemed to strip 
him naked and wither him. He sank to the 
ground under a crushing weight of shame, 
covering his eyes with his hands and cower- 
ing face downward upon the stones. Dimly 
through the trouble of his mind he felt their 
hardness and coldness. 

"Tell me, then," he cried, brokenly, "since 
my life has been so little worth, how came I 
here at all?" 

"Through the mercy of the King" — the an- 
swer was like the soft tolling of a bell. 

"And how have I earned it?" he mur- 

"It is never earned; it is only given," came 
the clear, low reply. 

"But how have I failed so wretchedly," he 
asked, "in all the purpose of my life? What 
could I have done better? What is it that 
counts here?" 

"Only that which is truly given," answered 
the bell-like voice. " Only that good which is 
done for the love of doing it. Only those plans 
in which the welfare of others is the master 
thought. Only those labors in which the sacri- 



fice is greater than the reward. Only those 
gifts in which the giver forgets himself." 

The man lay silent. A great weakness, an 
unspeakable despondency and humiliation were 
upon him. But the face of the Keeper of 
the Gate was infinitely tender as he bent over 

" Think again, John Weightman. Has there 
been nothing like that in your life ?" 

"Nothing," he sighed. "If there ever were 
such things it must have been long ago — they 
were all crowded out — I have forgotten them." 

There was an ineffable smile on the face of 
the Keeper of the Gate, and his hand made the 
sign of the cross over the bowed head as he 
spoke gently: 

"These are the things that the King never 
forgets; and because there were a few of them 
in your life, you have a little place here." 

The sense of coldness and hardness under 
John Weightman's hands grew sharper and 
more distinct. The feeling of bodily weariness 
and lassitude weighed upon him, but there was 
a calm, almost a lightness, in his heart as he 
listened to the fading vibrations of the silvery 
bell-tones. The chimney clock on the mantel 



had just ended the last stroke of seven as he 
lifted his head from the table. Thin, pale 
strips of the city morning were falling into the 
room through the narrow partings of the heavy 

What was it that had happened to him ? 
Had he been ill? Had he died and come to 
life again? Or had he only slept, and had 
his soul gone visiting in dreams ? He sat for 
some time, motionless, not lost, but finding 
himself in thought. Then he took a narrow 
book from the table drawer, wrote a check, 
and tore it out. 

He went slowly up the stairs, knocked very 
softly at his son's door, and, hearing no answer, 
entered without noise. Harold was asleep, his 
bare arm thrown above his head, and his eager 
face relaxed in peace. His father looked a,t 
him a moment with strangely shining eyes, and 
then tiptoed quietly to the writing-desk, found 
a pencil and a sheet of paper, and wrote rapidly : 

"My dear boy, here is what you asked me 
for; do what you like with it, and ask for more 
if you need it. If you are still thinking of that 
work with Grenfell, we'll talk it over to-day 
after church. I want to know your heart 
better ; and if I have made mistakes — ' ' 


" God give us a good Christmas together " 

A slight noise made him turn his head. Har- 
old was sitting up in bed with wide-open eyes. 
" Father!" he cried, " is that you ?" 
"Yes, my son," answered John Weightman; 
"I've come back — I mean I've come up — no, 
I mean come in — well, here I am, and God give 
us a good Christmas together."